One tenth of the US population goes to school every day in a big yellow 32 window coupe.
That’s about half of the US student population.
In just about every other country in the world, school buses , city buses, and mass transit buses all look the same. But not in the US of A.
Oh, no, we’ve got to have yellow buses.
But even in the US, they weren’t always yellow.
In 1886, Wayne Works started making school hacks or kid hacks, but they were few and far between.
And they were drawn by horses or oxen or in some cases, mules.
Back in the day, most kids really did walk five miles UP hill each way in a snow storm.
Or their parents took them just like Mrs. Ingles in the Little House show.
In 1914 Wayne Works started using automobile chassis as the auto caught on in America.
The kids would climb on, and sit around the perimeter of the bus rather than facing forward.
Blue Bird started designing buses that looked more like what you see today, and in the 1930s, school buses were regulated and standardized by the government.
Prior to that, they were usually vehicles that had been modified to be used as a means to an end: getting the rug rats to the school marm.
The rounded roof, called the California top, came along when the Gillig Brothers applied for a patent on the design.
As time moved on, safety for the kids became a greater concern.
Seems the buses weren’t all that safe!
So, just as the depression was about to end and WW II was about to start, Dr. Frank Cyr called a confab in Manhattan and the boys in power set about developing school bus standards.
Seems Frank had been coast to coast looking at school buses. He found there were no standards, and safety did not abound.
His meeting in Manhattan consisted of representatives from all 48 states, Hawaii and Alaska having not yet been added to the union.
The result; a slate of 44 national standards which has grown over time to over 300.
One result was that all school buses should be “national school bus glossy yellow.” Yellow was chosen because it gets noticed faster than any other color out there.
Studies showed – seriously, there were studies – that yellow in the peripheral vision was noticed 1.24 times faster than any other color, and the boys were hoping people would notice the color quickly and stop so the kiddies could be dropped off or picked UP.
35 of the 48 states immediately dashed out and painted all their buses yellow, but it wasn’t until 1974 that all the US got on board.
In the US, you can’t buy a school bus that isn’t that color. International, Blue Bird, and the rest refuse to make them any other color for schools.
We all remember going to a ball game or school in a school bus, and while mom may have made us buckle UP, there was no way to do so on the school bus.
There still isn’t.
Only buses weighing fewer than 10,000 pounds are required to have seat belts. The reason; it costs too much!
And the manufacturers claim the buses are already safe and added research shows adding seatbelts doesn’t make them any safer, and in some cases could actually injure kids in a crash.
The driver however has and is required to wear a seatbelt.
On top of all those excuses, fitting seatbelts on buses would be tricky. Seats on a bus will carry 3 kids under seven years of age or 2 middle and high schoolers.
So, you’d have to have buses for the littles and buses for the bigs which would add about 15% to the ever burgeoning cost of school transportation.
But, hey, they’re only kids right?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims their research, which goes back to 1987, indicates there is “…little, if any, benefit to including seatbelts in large school buses.”
And, if the kids do nothing but stay in their seats, they should be safe.
All in all, the “egg carton theory” of school buses seems to be working. It is the number one way kids get to school in America and out of 26 million children who ride the bus to school, an average of 6 die on a yearly basis compared to the 1,000 who die walking, biking, or riding to school with mom or dad.
This post was inspired by a friend who bemoaned the fact that her child missed the bus by seconds and the snarky bus driver refused to wait. Knowing how my mind works, she said she was awaiting a history of school buses post. Never being one to disappoint, now you have it.